Bruce: That is one of the great excitements of intellectual conversation, that it could result in someone changing his or her mind. It seems to me that that has been the case of every successful meeting I have ever been a part of, which is why I go to them. Most of them don’t show much signs of success and therefore, Gnotti [PH] will tell you why I’m famous for ignoring meetings. But this is one I think which is well worth doing because one of the virtues of an intellectual argument, however irrelevant you may believe it is, is that it could cause you to change your mind.
Epistemologically, let me entirely endorse what you’re saying about my working in cultural products. Cultural products are my data and reason is my test tube and that’s the way I function and I’m happy to do that. What relationship that has to the real world, I suppose at any given moment, will depend upon the definition of real, but I’m sure that we can agree at some level by the time we’re done as to what that might be. David?
David: So first of all in preparation for this conference, I read two of Dr. Atkin’s books, which I mentioned to you prior, so I know the angle.
David: So set the stage, the information, both Reverend Chilton and Lawrence Shifner [PH] come at–
Bruce: How come he gets to be Lawrence and I have to be Reverend?
David: On purpose, on purpose.
Bruce: Just asking.
David: Come at the world with a set of assumptions. I call them religions assumptions. That’s their — that’s the earth they stand on and they go from there. I write metaphysics without the assumptions just because of clearing [PH] the situation. I don’t take any assumptions from religion, including Judaism, as given. I start with a fresh slate, although my book is threatening with [inaudible 02:24], but to get to the heart of the matter because ultimately I felt this conference would come to precisely this point that Dr. Atkins is right.
In Dr. Atkins’s books, he maintains that the source of everything, in fact the source of Dr. Atkins is decay. Is that true or not?
Audience: For the moment.
David: Yes, for the moment. First, I want to make you an honest person. [Inaudible 02:56] The source of Atkins is potential and extraordinariation [PH] and Atkins has to decide is he the product of a billion years of decay or a billion years of extraordinariation.
Audience: I’d go for decay.
David: That’s correct, and therefore that’s what he does. That’s what he votes. Understand the stakes here. If Atkins is correct, the great Professor Atkins and he’s achieved greatness of many things, is to come in decay. Okay? Let’s all understand the stakes. If he wins, he loses.
Audience: It’s such a wonderful defeat.
David: Not really but I won’t belabor the point. But just to set the stage with Dr. Atkins’s own works.
Bruce: I think we’ll return to this. I think Norman first and then Marcello. Yeah?
Norman: Inevitable science be able to acknowledge the existence of God because [inaudible 04:06].
Marcello: I just wanted to say that decay but perhaps that’s a wonderful thing because if indeed all we are is a product of a sequence of accidents and heat perfections and yet we are able to be this conglomerate of matter and think about the universe. That is a very precarious [PH] manner.
Audience: Well, I have what I call the seven year old test, 100 seven year olds, and ask which is more likely, to act as a product of decay or as a product of extraordinariation?
Audience: And just like that, they will say decay.
Audience: No no, we get to very fancy philosophers, they can rationalize anything. But if you ask like with the seven year old test, you will tend to get the hard matters very quickly. Many scientists, like apparently these two gentlemen here, actually believe this. It’s beyond belief, that we’re the product of decay. Is the universe butterflies, rainbows, love, poetry, [inaudible 05:21], you name it is a product of decay. It’s frankly unbelievable.
Audience: But it’s frankly wonderful.
Audience: That’s the beauty of it.
Audience: What we’ve got to do this week–
Bruce: I’m at an age when I’m better on decay myself.
Audience: It becomes intriguing more and more with every second here. Here we have a classic [inaudible 05:49] between decay and construction and is this the only two ways of looking at things? Is it possible that decay and construction go together? For example, if there is — if construction occurs as a result of entropy, which is a decay, it’s entropy that allows things to cool off and congeal. Maybe decay and construction are not that far apart.
But my question is really more to Bruce than to — Bruce, do you feel like — I feel strongly that I may be with my daughter in New York here, that a dialogue, a very constructive dialogue between science and religion is reeling [PH] because there’s a lot of wisdom in both of these. Do you think Gnosticism can prove this and negotiate this because you’ve seen [inaudible 06:50]. Do you feel like this can do it, that this can really explore this?
Bruce: Well, I wouldn’t wish to oversell my proposal because all I’m saying is that when I look at David Bearbom’s [PH] system and when I look at the work of — there’s a very interesting person
who’s active in publishing on the internet named Miguel Conner, who sees himself as revising a form of Gnosticism. It seems to me that this is the intellectual matrix of what we’re talking about and because it is the intellectual matrix insofar as that is where it seems we are, we want to see where it came from and how it developed and the ways in which we are now going at questions differently.
I do believe that the valuation of matter, at the moment, by people who are drawing on the gnostic tradition, represents a major change in the movement, in its own way as major as the issue of whether we should regard consciousness as being defective or as being withdrawn. These are in fact important philosophical decisions that people are making as they move ahead. They are doing so in order to account for data in their reception.
I’m very much looking forward to Teddy Gidden’s [PH] paper because as far as I can see, it is exactly in the early modern period where the revaluation of what matter means causes major changes not only in scientific but also in philosophical form. On a completely different project, I’ve just been reading some of Isaac Newton’s [inaudible 09:04] and what he has to say about the religious significance of the vacuum of space strikes me as being an extraordinary way of expressing how it is that in his time, he’s seeing matter differently.
To go back to Peter’s comment, I am operating within the limits of what I believe are my certainty. That is I think that I can refer to evidence of what people have thought. That is what I do. That’s the business of history.
Audience: I think history is wonderful. It’s not entirely built on facts, [PH] but it is wonderful and I think it’s a civilized environment to understand historical springs [PH] of understanding, but not to be tracked. That’s where we have to move on.
Bruce: Donald, please you’ve been very patient. Thank you.
Donald: [Inaudible 10:07]
Bruce: I feared that.
Donald: [Inaudible 10:12] what we believe has something to do with — I mean, the truth about the universe might have something to do with how we feel about it. That’s not to say that something is believable or not believable because it’s repellent to our field.
Audience: Counterintuitive, if I said to you, “You are made up as ice,” it’s not supposed to be repellent, it’s counterintuitive.
Donald: I don’t think we’re thinking of a piece of ice.
Audience: I’m saying where Atkins says, “I am the product of decay,” it’s just counterintuitive.
Donald: I mean, I realize it’s very scientific if you say it, but counter intuition is the essence of silence. It’s all counterintuitive.
Audience: Well, then there’s no end to anything.
Bruce: Sammy has a comment. She’s really been patient.
Sammy: Well, I just have to say this because this is the crime [PH] of my field. In philosophy, everyone loves to put so much stock in intuitions and so we do have a diverse group here. Let’s just get it on the table. I’m not so big on experimental philosophy, but here’s one point I think people are making in this field. If you actually survey people, they don’t all have the same intuitions. So this appeal to some human intuition, usually it means white male, educated, certain background intuition. So let’s get that out of the way and we’re talking about different religious traditions where people have different intuitions from the get-go.
I think the history of science is very interesting because the intuitions of what science is have changed. The intuition of what knowledge is has changed. So I just want — if we’re going to banter around the word intuition, let’s really try to say what we’re talking about because if we mean, “This is my intuition, therefore all [inaudible 11:47] has this intuition.” That usually has been shown to be false when people investigate. I just want to say that.
Bruce: I would like to argue at the level not of intuition but viscera that it is the time when they said that we would be eating. [Laughter] This is an important observation to make that I think we can all take home and we can all speak about further. Thank you for an excellent discussion.